Knaresborough residents anger as council ignores air pollution problem

Councillor James Monaghan
Councillor James Monaghan

Residents have reacted with anger over Harrogate Borough Council’s apparent reluctance to resolve a growing air pollution problem on Knaresborough’s York Place.

The town has suffered with air quality concerns, particularly at Bond End but now, increasingly, the levels measured at York Place are exceeding the Air Quality Objective (AQB).

In usual circumstances, once this limit (40 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre (m3)) has been exceeded, the council has an obligation to declare it to DEFRA and set up an Air Quality Management Area, like that at busy Bond End (pictured).

However, York Place resident and Knaresborough Town Councillor James Monaghan (Lib) says the borough council is able to dodge this obligation on the ‘technicality’ that the measuring device is outside a commercial property. He said: “Air pollution on York Place is too high – it has dangerous levels.

“However, because the device is outside a commercial property they say it doesn’t affect people’s health directly.

“If it is an area where there are lots of people passing by or congregating then they might have to do something about it but if it’s a commercial property the argument is there is not people there all the time so they don’t have to do anything.

“What makes a mockery of the system is that this is one of only two commercial properties on the street.”

The issue at York Place has been known to the council for some time.

In the 2015 Air Quality Report for the district, issued by the borough council, the authority highlighted that the street had seen an increase in Nitrogen Dioxide levels from 37.01 (mcg/m3) in 2010 to 42.83 (mcg/m3) in 2014.

The report also said that this was a breach of the limit and acknowledged that the measuring device would have to be moved to a residential property in order for it to be recognised.

But now a suitable residential location has become available the council’s environmental officer has objected.

The owner of the offices where the device is located has applied for planning permission to convert the property back to residential use but Emily Revill, borough council Technical Officer for the Environment has objected to the application.

Mr Monaghan said: “The owner says it’s not fit for purpose as an office, they want it to go back to being a house, but Harrogate Council is objecting to it – not because it’s against the planning rules but because it will mean they will have to declare an Air Quality Management Area.

“They are putting their reluctance to do all this above peoples well-being and health.”

However, the planning application has not yet been completely rejected, and is due to go to the committee for a decision in February.

The borough council said: “All representations will be taken into account and relevant Planning and Environmental Protection officers will consider the matter before a final recommendation is made by the case officer.

“With this in mind, we are not able to comment on this application until the Planning Committee has taken place.”

However, Mr Monaghan’s appeal to declare an AQMA for York Place also has the support of North Yorkshire County Councillor for Knaresborough Bill Hoult.

Mr Hoult said: “Air pollution is responsible for almost 5% of deaths in the UK and particularly affects children and older people.

“I am calling on Harrogate Borough Council to acknowledge this air quality issue and put an action plan in place to reduce the risk to people’s health.

“It’s a worry for everybody particularly for the people who live there because they are the ones who are suffering on a day-to-day basis if it is breaching the guidelines it can be done so we know the truth of it – pollution kills.”